Best non hybrid meat birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by JohnDeerGirl, Feb 2, 2016.

  1. JohnDeerGirl

    JohnDeerGirl Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 30, 2015
    I'm thinking of starting a flock of meat birds, and I was wondering what would be the best breed. I looked at the Freedom Rangers and was thinking about getting them until I saw that they are actually a hybrid. I would like a breed that is a good forager, meat bird, and that is not a hybrid.

    Any tips would be appreciated!
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    First decide what you mean by “meat bird”. What traits are you after? Does color matter? With a white or buff bird you get a prettier carcass if you pluck. With a darker bird you can see the pin feathers. If you skin it doesn’t matter.

    Will you be eating the females? Half the chicks I hatch are female so half the chickens I eat are female. So are you looking at traits for both sexes or just males?

    How important is size? Many people are obsessed by size but there are only two of us. We can make two meals off of a fairly small hen so we don’t need extra huge chickens. That’s why female works for me.

    How will you cook them? You can get varying opinions about at what age you can grill or cook but practically everyone agrees that the older they get the more challenging that becomes. If you are happy with cooking them slowly and with moisture you can get some really nice older birds. If you want to cook them hot and dry, you better process them early so you need early maturing birds.

    How do you feed them? If you want a young bird to eat and are buying everything they eat, you need a bird that is at your butcher weight pretty quickly. You want one that gains meat fast though he may not be all that big. If you are happy with an older bird that forages for a lot of what they eat, how quickly and efficiently they convert feed to meat may not be all that important. They could eventually get big without you spending a fortune on feed.

    How much freezer space do you have? This is more pointed toward the Cornish X than what you are talking about, but consider if you have sufficient space when you prefer to butcher. Just part of your planning.

    How important is white meat versus dark meat to you? Different chickens have different conformations so you can get different proportions of dark versus white.

    Are you planning this just for your own use or are you looking to go commercial?

    Back before the Cornish Cross were developed, say the mid 1950’s, there were three breeds pretty much used for the commercial chicken meat market, New Hampshire, Delaware, and some strains of White Rock. But with the development of the Cornish Cross, people quit breeding those flocks for meat purposes. Hatcheries very much stopped breeding them for meat so today the hatchery chickens from those breeds aren’t a whole lot different from other dual purpose breeds. Supposedly a forum member is researching if any flocks still exist that meet the general requirements of the original commercial meat bird flocks. I wish him luck but even if he finds them, those don’t necessarily meet my criteria for good meat birds but they would be great for his goals.

    I suggest first you decide what you mean by “meat bird”. Then try to get breeding chickens and develop your own flock, whether a mixed breed or a “pure” breed. The better the stock that you start with the easier it will be to reach your goals. Breed the ones that are closest to your goals and eat the ones that are not. If size is a criteria, getting some birds from a show bird flock might be a good start. They don’t necessarily put on a lot of weight early and may not be really efficient at converting feed to meat, but they can be a really nice way to start.

    Good luck!
  3. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Ridgrunner makes some very good points. Are you good with a bird that reaches 3- 3.5 lbs dressed weight at 12 weeks? If not then it's looking like there is no standard bred bird out there left that performs better than that. Once you get past 14 weeks the age for broiling or grilling are over for that bird. Early maturity matters, final weight of adult birds means nothing. Honestly, take a giant bird like Jersey Giants or Brahma that take until stewing age to reach that final weight. What good is that? Not to mention the meat of those birds is said to be coarse which is not desired. You can eat any chicken and of any age. What your wanting the meat for will dictate what the breed should be.

    In this meat forum there are a hundred threads on people's venture into making a self sustaining meat bird. Pour over them and you'll see some promise but nobody seems to continue the venture and end results are lacking. Is it possible to achieve? Of course it is. I'm sure some have done so but there is very little of record showing the success from all those attempts. Nothing wrong with a mixed breed it just needs to breed true. I honestly think a bird that can achieve 4 lbs dressed weight for cockerels in 12 weeks would be of huge interest and well pay for the persons time into that endeavor if they were successful. The problem is a lot of people lose scope of what is really wanted. I've seen 20 weeks birds dressed at 7+ lbs and this is a mixed line that was set. As in it mostly breeds true. To me that is so far off scope. Why would anyone want to invest in 20 weeks of feed for a roasting chicken? Is a 5 lbs dress weight bird in 12 weeks ever going to be realized in a self sustaining line? No. But with scope in mind and actual broiler bird ages in mind 4 lbs in 12 weeks that we used to see in the 50's will be here again. That would be a true dual purpose bird. Nothing wrong with females producing 200 eggs per year and young cockerels making worth while meat birds in 12 weeks. I've yet to find any that exist in this present day.

    Hybrids. If meat is your goal don't bother with anything other than hybrids. A newish to the scene hybrid that forages and does't have the CorishX potential for health issues is Rainbow chicken or Dixie Rainbow or Pioneer. However you call it it will flesh out better than the red or black broilers in same time. It's 4 to 5 lbs dressed carcass in broiler able age. Nothing surpasses the CornishX for feed to meat conversion. It's the king. Second up is your Rainbow which females are let to lay if you want and have very good reports of extra large eggs 250+ per year. Red or Black broilers are last on the list of these "Meat" Birds.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Of course there is always making your own hybrids. Running two separate breeds and doing a cross once a year for a hybrid meat bird. That would prove a little better than a pure standard bred bird. Fastest maturing standard bred now is New Hampshire. Common broiler hybrid before CornishX was Plymouth Rock male over New Hampshire female. From this the Delaware breed was realized. Delaware of today is nothing like it's ancestry so "fast" maturing of standard bred birds is left to New Hampshire of today and the White Rock would be better choice of male in today's birds.

    If one wanted to make a self sustaining mixed bred then personally I'd just get the Pioneer chickens straight run. Weigh them each week. Keep the fastest maturing males and females to breed and butcher the rest. Do the same with offspring. Do it again. By 4th year you've got a line that is set. A mixed breed meat bird that will realize what people are looking for. Self sustaining (able to produce replica offspring), early maturing (able to dress 4 lbs or more cockerels in 12 week broiler age) and females that lay well. A new true dual purpose bird. Why folks try to accomplish it from CornishX and hatchery stock "heritage" birds is beyond me. What is attainable for a bird to achieve and still be perpetual is right there in the Dixie Rainbow hybrid. Just breed out the genetics you want from in in three generations.

    Genetically speaking you can only get as good as the parent/grandparent stock. You'd never use layer body type birds from hatcheries and never think you can achieve more than what you get from a first time cross of two pure breeds. A hybrid bird has the starting point and all the attributes it only needs teasing out and direction of the breeder to give them to the self sustaining offspring in 3 generations. Keep weight records and breed the fastest growth birds only. Egg laying will diminish as that aim is met. It's a trade off. Another breeder with aim of more balanced dual purpose bird would add laying ability to breeder factor and longevity of laying. This will lose some of the butcher weight. Clear goal and focus will make any bird you want. The creators of all the breeds knew that and did it. No reason it can't be done again. For a mixed breed I'd start with Pioneer hybrids, they've all the genetic material in them to work how you want.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  5. albert12363

    albert12363 Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 2, 2016
    If you're looking for a heritage breed, an orpington or jersey giant would be good options :)
  6. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    Although I have no pure bred Jersey Giants now, in the past I have had them and love the breed for many reasons. Currently many birds in my flock are one half to one quarter Jersey Giant. Depending on what you want in a meat bird a Jersey Giant may or may not be a good choice. Yes, they get huge, but it does take them a while to do so. They are one of the slower maturing breeds. If you can free range them they have great potential and don't eat much, but cooped up they eat a lot and don't have the best feed to meat or egg ratio.
    In a free range situation they are hard to beat for many reasons, but not everyone can achieve this.
  7. duckmeister

    duckmeister Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 13, 2014
    Red Bluff, California
    French Bresse are a great meat bird.
  8. BeaverQB

    BeaverQB Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 18, 2015
    We got good dressed (butchered) weight from Blue/Black Orpington roosters (dressed weight was around 4-5 pounds after 16-20 weeks of growth), we got a less impressive dressed weight from our recent run of White Plymouth Rock roosters (dressed weight averaged around 3.75 pounds after 16-20 weeks).

    I plan to run another set of birds this year -- was considering doing White Orpingtons, Light Brahmas, and White Jersey Giants. However, the folks on this forum convinced me that the Jersey Giant would likely take almost a full 12 months to reach it's full size, so I'll probably do some Delawares instead of Jersey Giants.

    Good luck! I'd love to hear what you decide and how it works out for you.
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    A hybrid bird is a bird on one side that has been inbred until a trait is fixed, tender flesh lets say. Then a separate breed is inbred long enough that a different trait is fixed (good feed conversion is one example). Then these two lines are bred together. The offspring should display the best of both parent strains. or maybe not.

    Your problem is going to be breeding enough of your heritage strain birds to have a good selection of breeders to chose from without breeding your heritage birds back to inferior dams or sires. Good luck and better buy a sharp ax.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
  10. JohnDeerGirl

    JohnDeerGirl Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 30, 2015
    Thank you so much for your advice everyone! It has all been really helpful. I was thinking about maybe the welsummers, black copper marans, or the australorps. Has anyone had meat experience with any of them?

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